What to do when a patient is in a very, very bad mood?

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Hello, I am a volunteer with homebound people. I mostly read to patients, but I am also a yoga teacher and I often help them with simple stretches while they often remain in their chairs or beds. I've found that it's hard to know what to do on days when they are in an extra bad mood and lash out at me. Can anyone give me some suggestions as to how I can make them feel better? Thanks so much!

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Thank you all so much for your help with this! The volunteer organization where I work asked us to come up with a list of ways to manage this type of situation. They suggested we include some "silly" answers as well as more serious ones. If you get a chance, would you mind checking out what I came up with and see what you think. Again, I so appreciate your time and help!

What to do with a cranky patient:

A cranky patient can make your day very hard. If your patient is in a bad mood, try to make them feel good. Using humor might do the trick! Here are some ideas in case you need a little inspiration:

1) Dance! Dance! Dance!

Don't be afraid to let loose! Your patient might appreciate your best Electric Slide or The Hustle!

2) Tell a joke or a funny story.

Laughter is the best medicine!

3) Make them feel special!

Draw a silly portrait of them!

4) Sing one of your favorite happy songs.

Don't worry if you aren't the best singer! Music is known to bring joy!

5) Give them a treat!

Everyone needs a little reward once in a while. Why not give your patient some ice cream or a cookie? Think of their favorite dessert!



Humor can be an excellent way to cheer your patient up, but it's also important to take a serious approach.

1) Be understanding!

Everyone has bad days. Don't let your patient's mood change yours! Stay positive! They count on you!

2) Be supportive!

Tell them that you understand. Ask them to talk to you about what they're feeling and LISTEN!

3) Be kind!

A little kindness goes a long way! Put yourself in their shoes! Remind them that you care about them.

4) Be patient!

Don't lose your temper! If your patient is upset, silently count to ten before you respond. Stay calm.

5) Be respectful!

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Speak softly to them. Be gentle. Be encouraging.
Your patients will struggle from time to time. They need you to stay strong! You can help them just by being there for them.
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I worked Elder Care for several years..having been brought up with music in the house and specifically the "oldies" from the 30's.40's and up..I know a lot of songs. My client would get agitated in the car, because she could no longer drive and it made her cranky to sit while I drove. One day, out of frustration at her bad mood I began to sing an old, old song. She quieted right down! Said she hadn't heard that song since she was a young girl. Turned out that MUSIC, the music appropriate to the age of the person for whom you are caring, can be very comforting. I sang to my dad while he was in the long slow process of dying. He would have listened to me until my throat closed up. How grateful I am that I have a halfway decent voice and remember the lyrics to a million old songs! You can also get ANYTHING from the internet, music wise. Good luck!
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I would try to locate somewhere to get a class on handling people with dementia or other disabilities. Maybe your local counsel on aging or community college might have some idea. I think there are many ideas offered online too. Look here and at the Alzheimers site.

I know that I have read and learned techniques since my cousin was diagnosed with dementia. Some things include, being complimentary of the person. I try to offer praise for things like getting around good in her wheelchair, how pretty her hair looks, how nice her smile is, how funny she can be. I try to instill more confidence and praise to her. I try to make her feel special and show her respect. Sometimes I think they feel like they aren't people anymore since most things are out of their control.

I give her the option on things so she gets to exhibit some control. Like, do you want orange juice or grape? Do you want to sit in the living room or dining room? What kind of books do you prefer? Let them make as many decisions as they can.

I also try to show that others like them. I may say that her roommate really admires her or the staff thinks she super special. It often helps for them to feel they are valued and well liked by others. I do this, even if it's not really true. Though, it is true with my cousin, now that she is Memory Care. She's probably the most social in her wing.

I try to redirect the conversation. If the person says they are angry and hate you, I might say, "I can see you don't feel well, but do you feel well enough to tell me about these people in these photos? It looks like a wonderful family." or "Is there something I can do to make you feel better? Sometimes, I like to read poetry or look at books with horses in them.? What are your hobbies?

The person who is in charge of the individual might need to know about the agitation so they could have the person evaluated. They could need a medication adjustment or to be treated for a UTI. It's hard to say what is causing the agitation, but it could be a medical condition or be related to age and decline.
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I have no advice, but, as the daughter of someone who is beginning to get crankier and sometimes a bit nasty to those trying to help him and who are only trying to do their job, I want to applaud you for giving your free time as a volunteer to these people. And I look forward to reading the advice that you are given on this topic by those who have experience :) All I can say is, at the end of the day, you can go home and know that you did your best for someone else even if they didn't appreciate it. We, the caregiving community, appreciate you.
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